BruinsHurricanes: 5 from the First

BruinsHurricanes: 5 from the First

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comRALEIGH, N.C. Here are five thoughts from the first period of BruinsHurricanes with both teams locked in a scoreless tie at the RBC Center in the first game back from the NHL All-Star break.1)Not going into the books as one of Bostons best periods of hockey. The Bs were on their heels for much of the session, and took a pair of penalties without going on the power play themselves.2)Rare fight these days for Milan Lucic with Jay Harrison toward the end of the first period. No real strong punches landed either way, but perhaps thats the kind of momentum event that can snap the Bruins out of their slumber.3)The Bruins did look like they started to get their bearings toward the end of the period. Good chances for Nathan Horton, Blake Wheeler and Patrice Bergeron in the middle of the slot area, but Cam Ward looks like hes on his game just as strongly as Tim Thomas. Amazingly the Bruins still outshot Carolina by a 15-10 margin despite starting off very slowly.4)Tim Thomas made a series of big saves at the beginning of the first period during Carolinas first power play when he made three straight body and pad saves on Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen before his helmet popped off and the refs had to whistle the play dead.5)Good jump from Steve Kampfer, who had a couple of shots on net and threw Carolina wonder body Jeff Skinner to the ice as the final buzzer sounded in the first period. It got bodies pushing and shoving on both sides, and continued to show the Bruins getting better and more involved as the period went on.6)Six shots on net for Zdeno Chara in the first period.

Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

File photo

Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins have scored less than three goals exactly once in their playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Offense really hasn’t been an issue against a Toronto team that can’t consistently stop the Black and Gold. No, it’s much more about defense and slowing down the Maple Leafs while keeping preventable goals out of the back of their net. 

Some of it is about effectively cutting down the transition, stretch passes that Toronto likes to use to kick-start their offense, and that’s about minimizing the risk-taking offensively while also taking care not to allow leaking, sneaking opponents behind their defense. Some of it is just about good, fundamental defense as the Bruins simply didn’t play 2-on-2 situations very well on rushes from the Toronto forwards in their Game 5 loss at TD Garden. 

All of it is about holding players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nazem Kadri in check as the Bruins have done for long stretches of the series with a steady diet of Zdeno Chara greeting the Leafs franchise center wherever he goes.

“In games like that we have to be a little better defensively,” said Brad Marchand, referring to Game 5’s defeat where they scored three goals. “We can’t expect to score five goals every game, so we can’t be giving up four [goals]. If we’re a little bit better there and continue to pepper away with the shots, hopefully things will work in our favor.”

Bruce Cassidy went through each of the first three goals allowed by the Bruins in their Game 5 loss last weekend, and each of them needed better “rush defense” executed by the Bruins. The first was a simple one-man rush into the zone by Matthews, the second was Andreas Johnsson getting behind the Bruins defense before connecting with Kadri on a perfect pass, and the third was a backbreaking Tyler Bozak score from the slot after the Bruins had just scored and grabbed momentum in the game. All of them arrived via Toronto’s speed and aggressive mindset entering the offensive zone, and that’s something Boston has stifled to a much more effective degree until Saturday night.  

“They make a play up the wall where we’re normally there to contest that, slide and have the appropriate adjustment between the forward and the ‘D.’ We didn’t slide until the rush. That will be addressed and was addressed. That’s what we need to do against Toronto when we have the numbers and we didn’t do it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Then they won a puck at the net where we’re generally good there, but they got it to the net. Give them credit, they got it there. They got it to the net and won a battle by going to the dirty areas. 

“The second goal was a 2-on-2 and a good play, but still a 2-on-2. We need to defend it better from our end. From their end, it’s a nice play. The third goal was a quick up, we were a little late trying to kill it. … We were a little late in every area, we needed a save there and we didn’t get it. So those are the three goals I look at, and I look at the rush defense that could have been better.”

Given that the Bruins have scored 20 goals in the five playoff games vs. Toronto and hit the 40 shots on net three different times in the best-of-seven series, it’s about holding the Leafs down a little more effectively as they’ve done in their three wins. If the Bruins can play sound defense and once again slow down the Maple Leafs track meet on the ice, then it’s highly doubtful this series will be going back to Boston for a Game 7.